WASHINGTON, D.C. — “We’re all in this together.” That was the message from James Coyne, president of the National Air Transportation Association (NATA), Nov. 30 when he met with news media for a look at the issues facing GA in the coming months. Coyne noted that in spite of the many problems general aviation now faces, he is “cautiously optimistic” that most will be resolved, but solutions will require the industry working as a group.
One of the major issues to be faced, he said, is reauthorization of the FAA, which has been operating on 17 temporary extensions. If another temporary extension is passed, it will set a new record for the Guinness Book of Records for the number of extensions any agency has had to endure.
Security is another issue NATA will seek to resolve. More than two years ago the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) proposed a program to govern all aircraft weighing more than 12,500 pounds. This would affect many of the charter flight companies that are NATA members, as well a many operators of corporate aircraft. The proposed regulation, NATA believes, “demonstrates a troubling lack of knowledge and understanding of the general aviation community.” TSA has refused offers of assistance from NATA to arrive at compromises between what TSA is proposing and what the association believes is a more practical solution based on where charter operators fly to and from.
Another issue involving charter flights is the proposed flight, duty and rest time of Part 135 operators, which would require substantially the same rules as Part 121 airline operations. In the NPRM issued in October, the FAA said it considers Part 135 operators similar to Part 121 operators and a similar, if not identical, rule might be published for both. One size doesn’t fit all, NATA says.
Coyne also said there should be a standardization of regulatory interpretations within the FAA, which doesn’t now exist. It is wrong for different FAA offices in different parts of the nation to interpret regulations differently, yet this happens almost daily, Coyne said.
It is not only federal government actions that NATA is working on. States are now beginning to seek new sources of revenue and this includes placing new taxes on flight activities. State tax assessments are beginning to affect interstate commerce, Coyne said, emphasizing that there must be consistency. An increasing number of states are pursuing tax revenues from Part 135 air charter operators primarily in the form of corporate/business tax filing. This can bring long and expensive burdens on charter operators. NATA says to prepare reports and pay taxes in 50 different states would be impractical, particularly if an operator might have only a small number of flights going into a state during the year.
Coyne said aviation also faces more problems relating to operations at airports. Local communities now believe they have a right to control the airspace around an airport, he said, which means those involved in GA need to become more involved at the local level.
The next generation air traffic control system (NextGen) is another complete ball of wax with massive expenditures for all users and the federal government with little advancement. NextGen “is a train driven by the FAA,” Coyne told the gathering.
NATA is composed of about 2,000 companies that own, operate and service aircraft. These include FBOs, air charter companies, maintenance companies, part sales, flight training, scheduled commuter operations in smaller aircraft, storage, rental and airline servicing, serving the general public, airlines, general aviation and the military. For more information: NATA.aero